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Marrakesh, Morocco

Gatwick was heaving with people – on a Wednesday! I was fortunate enough to be fast tracked so I didn’t have to deal with most of them. I came very close to losing a third Swiss Army knife at security (will I ever learn). He then asked what I used it for.

Well, I said, small flathead screws are no challenge to me, there’s a large knife for cutting things, a smaller knife for cutting smaller things, some mini pliers for relatively easy plying tasks, a file to eliminate roughness that disturbs my sensibilities, scissors for delicate, but intricate paper reshaping, a bottle opener in times of thirst, a corkscrew for non-screw top wine bottles, a tiny saw when I feel the need to cut tree branches, something a fisherman might find useful, a hoof pick for horses in distress, one that I can’t get out, and a few blades that I have yet to discover a purpose for. He let me keep it.

The BA lounge really does have the best food. Fabulous fish cakes. And the Muros Antigos wasn’t bad either. I had forgotten that I’d booked something called “economy”. I was distraught. As luck would have it, the plane wasn’t full and I decided to board last to have my pick of a three seater at the back. That didn’t work, however, my assigned window seat in an exit row had an unoccupied middle seat. The first class seats were actually no bigger. They simply had a table in the centre seat. That shared table would have cost me £705 more.

Three hours later we arrived in Marrakesh, (RAK) for those interested in airport codes, and it was suitably warmer than the UK. My only previous visit to Morocco was to the capital, Rabat, some years ago for Karen and Martin’s wedding held at the British Ambassador’s residence. Sir Clive Alderton, ambassador from 2012-2015 is now the Private Secretary to King Charles lll and Queen Camilla. I don’t normally mix in those circles, but it does give me a head start in the Kevin Bacon game. This means I’m only a 4 from Tupou VI, King of Tonga.

Marrakesh airport was very modern, but the immigration queue was disastrous. It took an hour to get through with two more security stops before we were released. My taxi driver was a good chap and deposited me at the hotel 20 minutes later. At reception I asked where the bar was. I needed wine. It turned out that this was an alcohol free hotel! An even bigger disaster. And my room was about half a mile from the front desk. It was also directly in the flight path and things shook when a plane went over. And the room was like a sauna. Other than that, things were fine.

RAK airport
Hotel pool

I went in search of wine and found the Palm Plaza hotel which had a bar. I watched Everton vs. Liverpool. Moroccan wine won’t be winning awards anytime soon. And it was ten quid a glass.

The following morning I walked a few miles to the Medina, the oldest and most famous part of Marrakesh dating back to the 11th century, to see the Saadian Tombs. Relatively interesting. The Saadi dynasty were the ruling family from 1509 to 1659.

In the souk
Entrance to Saadian Tombs
A tomb

On the way back I passed a cemetery and tried to get in and I was told I wasn’t allowed by a finger wagging Moroccan (they’re the worst). Then, Mohammed, a thirteen year old boy on a bike wearing a doctor’s coat decided to join me for part of the journey.

Later I visited the gym wearing perfect gym attire except for combat trousers. I was nearly thrown out! On a cruise ship you can go to the gym in pyjamas and slippers if the mood takes you. You can see the trip is going well. I’m fully expecting to be spat at by a camel when I get to the Sahara desert.

My perfect gym attire

I skipped dinner and went back to the Palm Plaza for alcohol and football. I tried beer thinking it would be less expensive. I was wrong. Ten quid for a bottle of Casablanca. I might stock up at the Carrefour tomorrow.

I was woken on Friday by easyJet 4927. After breakfast I headed back to the Medina and found the labyrinth of small cobblestone streets. Full of people, mopeds, and donkeys. I do like a souk but I can only stand it for a couple of hours. They produce a lot of negative emotions- ignoring people, saying “no” to people, and then the haggling where they try to fleece you. I hold my nerve in the bargaining. I walked away from many a greedy Moroccan. Having said that, I now have a complete Moroccan outfit, and I think I’ve got a Touareg tent arriving in the UK sometime in May.

Koutoubia minaret

I also visited the Bahia Palace, along with several hundred other tourists. Not as striking as I thought it might be. Moorish architecture is very unique, and they do like a decorative ceiling.

Bahia Palace

I managed to go to the Carrefour and get wine – with a cork. Lucky I have my Swiss Army knife.

Early evening I’d booked a Moroccan massage at a bargain price of £45. Much cheaper than the cruise ship. It didn’t start well. She was a non-smiling hefty girl. When I stuck my head through the hole of the massage table, below was a wicker basket which looked like it contained rabbit droppings. The massage was a little tame with zero pain.

On Saturday I checked at lunchtime and headed for a different hotel where the tour of Maroc starts. It’ll be nice to have some company. Despite a few gripes, I liked my three nights at the Mogadar Agdal Hotel. The bath tub was splendidly deep, my secluded balcony was perfect, and the pool area was one of the best I’ve seen. Who cares if Ryanair sounded like they were landing on my balcony at midnight.

Pedestrian crossings are curious. The best course of action is to break into a little jog because the traffic won’t slow down.

Tomorrow we head out of the Red City for some nature. I’m looking forward to seeing the Atlas Mountains.

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